Land Use on Charter Commission Agenda?

The New York City Charter Revision Commission has concluded its round of issue hearings, having moved from term limits to non-partisan elections and the role of various elected official, like the Public Advocate and Borough Presidents, to the City’s land use approval process.

There is certainly no shortage of ideas(.pdf) for reforming the Charter, but some believe that it will be difficult for the Commission to come up with comprehensive reform by the end of the summer.

At this point in time, I’m guessing that the Commission will focus on terms limits because of the widespread dissatisfaction when the Mayor and City Council made themselves eligible for a third term last year without a public referendum, and on non-partisan elections, a boost to Republican and Independence Party, which supported the Mayor and which recently got some traction in California. The more complicated issues, like including reform of the use of Community Benefit Agreements(.pdf) in winning public approval, can wait. However, there’s likely to be another Charter Commission next year, and the year after and the year after. Unlike California, New York is not very hospitable to public referenda. There are virtually no provisions for citizen initiated votes at the state level. In New York City, the Charter can be amended by popular vote, except that no petition-suggested question can appear on the ballot in a year when a Charter Commission has offered amendments. So there have been numerous commissions over the last decade to block votes on subjects such as moving Yankee Stadium and mandating smaller class size.

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